Work In Progress
I took a fun personality quiz yesterday, which is part of a publicity campaign for the second edition of Monsterhearts, a table-top roleplaying game about teenage monsters. You can think of it as an exploration of some of the overarching metaphors in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that high school is hell, that the changes you go through can be scary and new responsibilities can be both a gift and a burden. There’s another metaphor here too, that feeling like you’re different from everyone else can be alienating. You can feel monstrous, either less than or more than human, sometimes both. I’ve played Monsterhearts first edition and I’m looking forward to taking the new one for a spin.
Here’s the quiz: Which Monsterhearts Skin Are You? I got this result. Given all the options, it doesn’t entirely surprise me:
This got me thinking about character types in general. I’m currently working on a young adult horror novel and while it’s not based on Monsterhearts, I did take its archetypes into consideration. There’s a character in my novel named Bruno (at least that’s the name I have for him right now) who is absolutely a reflection of The Fae, and yet he and I are completely different.
To be clear, I’m not a fan of using archetypes for real world people. The worst is the whole “there are two kinds of people” thing. No. Introvert vs Extrovert? Optimist vs Pessimist? Male vs Female? Gay vs Straight? Fight vs Flight? I’m not even a fan of the Myers-Briggs Indicators, which claims there are 16 types. Sure, people do have personality traits that they like to stick with and archetypes are handy short-forms for clusters of traits, but the minds of real people have enough flexibility to make rigid categories unhelpful.
Here’s Bruno, who would get the same Monsterhearts quiz results as I did:
- Cis Boy who presents like an androgynous glam rocker
- ENFP: The Campaigner (Myers-Briggs)
- Couldn’t care less about quizzes except to gently tease those who do
- Knight of Cups (tarot)
- Rowlf the Dog (Muppets)
- Samantha (Sex and the City, which I didn’t watch but that quiz was everywhere for a few years)
- Star Wars
- Gryffindor (Harry Potter)
- The Sorcerer (D&D)
And here’s an oversimplified and unhelpful summary of me:
- Cis Woman tomboy
- Bi/Pan (one reason why the “two types of people” thing bothers me so very, very much)
- Flight, until I get home and develop a plan or at least a better long-term response
- INFP, the Mediator (Myers-Briggs)
- The type who overthinks her answers on quizzes, especially when it comes to questions of personal values. Beliefs do vary from person to person, but we don’t always act according to our beliefs. We try and we fail and we try again and we adjust based on what we learn and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Are we supposed to answer those questions as “should” or “do”?
- Temperance (tarot)
- Fozzie Bear (Muppets)
- Miranda (Sex and the City)
- Star Trek
- Ravenclaw (Harry Potter)
- The Rogue (D&D)
This entire post makes me sound like a total curmudgeon who pretends to hate quizzes but secretly loves them. Quizzes are great, especially the ones based in nerdy fandoms. I take them with a grain of salt though, something to bring out flavours rather than define an entire dish. However, there are certain personality-related questions floating around that deeply intrigue me, even for real people. The first:
If sentient aliens land on your front lawn, what do you do first: aim your gun or offer friendship?
If you find yourself meeting your exact double, do you (given only two options) fight or, um, fool around?
I find these interesting because the reasons for someone’s choice may not be obvious at first glance. You might be tempted to see the alien question as a matter of Optimist vs Pessimist. Those who think we should aim our guns first may believe that the those who would offer friendship first are naive. As I mention above, I consider myself (unhelpfully) a pessimist, and yet I would start with the friendship thing. For me, the real question is “Which horrible fate would you risk: becoming a victim or becoming a villain?” Likewise, the doppelganger question might not be a matter of whether or not you like yourself. It could mean “Which do you prize the most: personal autonomy or being understood?” Maybe those who answer differently from me have other questions in mind.
Bruno, by the way, would aim the gun and hold very still, refraining from firing until he knows more, sharing inappropriate jokes in the meantime with anyone listening. As for his double, Bruno would tackle it, destroy it utterly, and then carry the secret of what he’s done to the grave. He’d never allow conversation about himself to get that heavy, at least not until an All Is Lost turning point near the end of a story arc. Even then, it would have to be well-earned. At least, I hope I can earn the right to force his emotional hand at some point. Bruno’s never going to go through either of these scenarios any more than he’s Samantha or Rowlf the Dog or a literal Fae, but it gives me a sense of how he handles obstacles, and because he’s a product of the imagination (and of too many hours inhaling books and movies and tv) that is a helpful thing.
I spent the past weekend starting the first draft of a new* novel, using the rules of the 3-Day Novel challenge. The last time I tried 3-Day Novel I only got 20,000 words done, and a story that was completed but not at all usable except to cannibalize aspects of it into other projects. This time I got 24,000 words down, with legible sentences and paragraphs and chapter headings, etc. It’s an organized 24,000. I was actually editing a teensy bit as I went along and I had a separate file open to keep track of names and places and other details for continuity. I’m not including that other file in my word count.
My goal for the weekend was to surpass 20,000 words but my goal for the entire novel is 85,000. I’m just past the quarter mark of the word count and I’m conveniently also just past the quarter mark of my loosely-planned plot. I’m enjoying the characters. They are taking the story in directions I didn’t know they would go.** These directions feel pretty good.
Last time, I felt completely burnt out afterwards for days. Keeping that experience in mind, I planned to work on other things this week. Surprisingly, I feel energized. Last night I actually considered setting my other plans aside and devoting the rest of the week to completing the novel at the same pace. Locking myself in the office and guzzling down whole pitchers of tea for days on end, however, with walking to the bathroom as the only exercise, is probably not the best thing for the human body. So, I’m sticking to the schedule.
What I don’t have right now is a title. UNTITLED Y.A. doesn’t quite cut it. I’ll think of something.
To be continued…
*actually based on an idea that I tried to turn into a novel a few years ago and had to abandon, but all of the characters and much of the setting have changed.
** characters hijacking the plot is something a lot of writers talk about as some higher ideal (as if understanding their desires and fears isn’t enough) but from what I’ve seen, it can lead to self-indulgence bordering on wankery. I hope like hell that’s not what’s happening here. Only time and beta readers will tell.